City council to decide on hands-free ordinance tomorrow

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - By Tuesday afternoon using your cell phone while driving could be against the law in Wichita Falls.

Two city council members are leaning in favor of the hands-free ordinance which would mean drivers would have limited access to using their phones while behind the wheel.

But that has not always been the case.

"Well when I first saw it on the agenda, that we were going to talk about it, I thought it was a no brainer. That yes, we need to do something about texting and driving," District 1 Councilman, Eric West said.

But after hearing from some of his constituents concerns, including government overreach, he did some research. After some in depth searching, he changed his mind back to his original stance.

"This is a public safety issue," he said.

District 4 Councilman, Jesse Brown, who was vocally against the ordinance when it was first proposed is also looking at this from a public safety side after amendments allowing drivers to access speaker phone among other things were added.

"I stepped back and looked at the entire weight of what the ordinance is and what the nation is trending, and what the state of Texas is trending, and I would have to say that I lean towards voting yes. But again it's not official yet and won't be official until tomorrow," Brown said.

We posted to our Newschannel 6 facebook page about the proposed ordinance to see where people stood.

Take a look at the comments section here.

Some were in favor saying it will make roads safer. Others said it will be an overreach of authority.

A common concern is how this would be enforced with first responders.

"We have to trust our police and first responders to do their job and serve the people they took an oath to serve and I trust them to do that," Brown said.

Police, EMS, fire departments and other first responders will only be allowed to access wireless devices to make work-related phone calls.

As the clock ticks to decision time city council members are ready to hear from the public.

"I understand not everyone is going to be happy when you make these kinds of controversial decisions but I also think it's our responsibility as a council to take on these types of issues," West said.

West said taking no action is not an option with how dangerous distracted driving is.

If passed, Wichita Falls will be the first city in the county to enact an ordinance of this kind.

Samantha Forester, Newschannel 6

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